Monday, September 24, 2012

Posting Kindle Clippings Addendum. Chrome option.

Something I noticed using Chrome:

    You can clip to from your page if

  • You are using Chrome and...
  • You have the Findings Extension.
Like so:

This won't be the same as the old synchronization of clippings, but you can add a note to identify the source.  And once clipped it can be shared to your Facebook, Pintrest, Tumblr via

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

How To Build a Commonplace Book With Your Kindle

Commonplace book mid 17th century
If you are like me, you've compiled a lot of highlights using your Kindle.  They're all stored - many, if not most have been stored twice.

First: Any books you have from Amazon can save their highlights (and notes) "in the cloud."  This requires that you have turned on "whispersync."  Check your account settings at

Second: ANY highlights and notes are stored locally in "My Clippings.txt" - a plain text file in your Documents/ folder on your Kindle.  This is great  - it includes all the books from Amazon, along with periodicals and books from, Smashwords, or any independant source of books.

Now: At this point you already HAVE a Commonplace book.  You can see all your (Amazon book) highlights online at  OR you can copy the My Clippings file off of your Kindle, and store it wherever you want. Just connect your Kindle to a computer, navigate to the Documents directory and copy "My Clippings.txt".  Say, Google Docs, a Dropbox directory, or maybe in your Amazon cloud storage.

By itself this may not be very useful. It's hard to navigate the quotes, and "My Clippings.txt" is in chronological order.  I sort of like that, but it may seem a bit jumbled.  How do you make it more useful?

Head on over to - it's a terrific website that lets you convert your clippings file into a PDF, spreadsheet or RTF file

If you create an RTF file, you could then upload it into Google docs and save the file as a Google doc:

or, you could just upload your clippings file to Docs:

Why should I do that?

Once you make a google doc, you can make a web page!  That means you can publish your notes as a web page - something you can find whenever you want it!    Just  open the Google doc, click on "File" and choose "Publish to the web...".  I recommend linking the Google doc URL to a more friendly URL using or 

Even better that web page lets you link to the quotes!

Try is a great service that lets you build up a commonplace book from web clippings.  Until fairly recently they also had a synchronization service that let you copy your Amazon book clippings automatically.  Though it's too bad this service was discontinued it should be pointed out that it ONLY included books you got FROM Amazon.  For example, Baen, Smashwords, and Gutenberg-sourced books would NEVER have been included.  That's where your web page above comes in handy - it's just ANOTHER web page, right?  You can clip from it - and that means you can use Findings to store and share your clips to Tumblr, Facebook, and Instapaper.

example shows chrome being used to clip.
once clipped to you can share it
... and there it is on Tumblr

To Sum it Up:

  1. Collect your clippings files from your Kindle(s) into a single text file.
  2. Use ClippingsConverter to create a nicely organized file (or keep the file in the plain text file)
  3. Move the document to a web page (using Google docs for example)
  4. Use to select clips that you can share .


This won't pick up Kindle highlighting from the Kindle apps, or the Kindle-for-web.  It also won't have any clips that you didn't collect off of your Kindle (I've had three Kindles so far, and have made sure that I saved my clips from each).

If you don't WANT all your clips available from the clipping file, you can toggle the "publish to the web" on and off from Google docs.  Leaving it public does provide a link back to the original.  I've actually used a variation where I run a private (not available to the public) webserver where I store the clips and usually clip from there.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Keeping a Commonplace book

When our visitor was silent Holmes stretched out his hand and took down letter "S" of his commonplace book.  
The Return of Sherlock Holmes by Doyle, Sir Arthur Conan 

It was Sherlock Holmes who first introduced me to the "commonplace book" - it was Jeff Bezos who gave me one.

Commonplace books (or commonplaces) were a way to compile knowledge, usually by writing information into books. They became significant in Early Modern Europe.

"Commonplace" is a translation of the Latin term locus communis (from Greek tópos koinós, see literary topos) which means "a theme or argument of general application", such as a statement of proverbial wisdom. In this original sense, commonplace books were collections of such sayings, such as John Milton's commonplace book. Scholars have expanded this usage to include any manuscript that collects material along a common theme by an individual.

Such books were essentially scrapbooks filled with items of every kind: medical recipes, quotes, letters, poems, tables of weights and measures, proverbs, prayers, legal formulas. Commonplaces were used by readers, writers, students, and scholars as an aid for remembering useful concepts or facts they had learned. Each commonplace book was unique to its creator's particular interests.    (

Thanks to my Kindle I've now collected hundreds of notes and clippings.  Everything noted and highlighted - IF I got the book from Amazon - lives on - that was the start.

And then I discovered - a place I could collect ALL my kindle-quotes.  Not only that, but I could highlight texts on the web and paste THEM into my findings.  This was terrific, because Findings let me publish to Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr.  And the material could be searched as well - this put organization into the content that made it more useful than ever.  I was well on my way to being as organized as Sherlock Holmes!

But - something was missing.  Many of my books come from, or, or  How could I add them to my findings?

This isn't a problem  - that is, Kindle maintains a file "My Clippings.txt" that logs all of your highlights and notes - whether Amazon-sourced material or not.  It's a plain text file you can copy off of your Kindle - the trick is getting THAT into a format that will let you clip.

And for that, I have a solution - several, in fact!

... Stay tuned....

Sailing on!

Oh - I created this blog... and then did nothing with it?  That can't be right.

Here's some topics I should think about, and write something about:
  • Reading as a way of life
  • The joy of the Library
  • Used books
  • Audio books
  • Ebooks 
  • Me and my Kindle 
  • Keeping a Commonplace book
  • Using Calibre to manage and CREATE ebooks
  • Capturing "My Clippings.txt" into a Commonplace book
That last may be one of the first.... stay tuned.

Thursday, March 11, 2010


I'd originally thought to call this post "why ebooks?" but, on reflection, thought better of it. That is, before I can even begin to ask about ebooks, I want to reflect on the more basic question of why books AT ALL.

It's a hard question for me to ask - simply because books are such basic part of my life I can barely imagine what life would be without them. Sitting at my computer at this moment - without moving my head (just rolling my eyes in every direction) I can easily count over two dozen books in front of me. Reference books and fiction. Library books, used books, audio books (on real tape even) surround me. If I stepped away from the computer and surveyed the room I'd easily top 100 - maybe two hundred.

So I'm maybe the wrong person to ask "why books?" I can barely even form the question.

Fortunately other, more lucid people have answered the question for me: - a sampling:

A good book on your shelf is a friend that turns its back on you and remains a friend. ~Author Unknown

A book is the only place in which you can examine a fragile thought without breaking it, or explore an explosive idea without fear it will go off in your face. It is one of the few havens remaining where a man's mind can get both provocation and privacy. ~Edward P. Morgan

The worth of a book is to be measured by what you can carry away from it. ~James Bryce

Anyone who says they have only one life to live must not know how to read a book. ~Author Unknown

A while back Ray Bradbuy made news two ways - as a champion of books and libraries... and by disapproving of the internet:

"Among Mr. Bradbury's passions, none burn quite as hot as his lifelong enthusiasm for halls of books. ... 'Libraries raised me,' Mr. Bradbury said. 'I don't believe in colleges and universities. I believe in libraries because most students don't have any money. When I graduated from high school, it was during the Depression and we had no money. I couldn't go to college, so I went to the library three days a week for 10 years.' ... The Internet? Don't get him started. 'The Internet is a big distraction,' Mr. Bradbury barked... 'Yahoo called me eight weeks ago,' he said, voice rising. 'They wanted to put a book of mine on Yahoo! You know what I told them? "To hell with you. To hell with you and to hell with the Internet." It's distracting. It's meaningless; it's not real. It's in the air somewhere.'"

For good measure - here's more good "pro-book" quotes:

A good book should leave you... slightly exhausted at the end. You live several lives while reading it. ~William Styron, interview, Writers at Work, 1958

There is a great deal of difference between an eager man who wants to read a book and a tired man who wants a book to read. ~G.K. Chesterton

Many people, other than the authors, contribute to the making of a book, from the first person who had the bright idea of alphabetic writing through the inventor of movable type to the lumberjacks who felled the trees that were pulped for its printing. It is not customary to acknowledge the trees themselves, though their commitment is total. ~Forsyth and Rada, Machine Learning

A good book has no ending. ~R.D. Cumming

I would be most content if my children grew up to be the kind of people who think decorating consists mostly of building enough bookshelves. ~Anna Quindlen, "Enough Bookshelves," New York Times, 7 August 1991

Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers. ~Charles W. Eliot

Always read something that will make you look good if you die in the middle of it. ~P.J. O'Rourke

Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read. ~Groucho Marx

I find television to be very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go in the other room and read a book. ~Groucho Marx

The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who can't read them. ~Mark Twain, attributed

A book reads the better which is our own, and has been so long known to us, that we know the topography of its blots, and dog's ears, and can trace the dirt in it to having read it at tea with buttered muffins. ~Charles Lamb, Last Essays of Elia, 1833

Let books be your dining table,
And you shall be full of delights
Let them be your mattress
And you shall sleep restful nights.
~Author Unknown

A book is like a garden carried in the pocket. ~Chinese Proverb

There's nothing to match curling up with a good book when there's a repair job to be done around the house. ~Joe Ryan

Books let us into their souls and lay open to us the secrets of our own. ~William Hazlitt

Thursday, February 26, 2009

I Can't Stop Reading

I remember back before the summer of 1966 being asked what my summer plans were... and I said "read, read, read, read, read.... " till they made me stop.  But I haven't stopped yet - and I'm not likely to anytime soon.

I've just ordered a Kindle - to go along with the  7 different ebook readers (4 palm devices, 2 ipods and a cellphone) I already have.

As I always say (sort of joking) I want a book on hand in case I'm abducted by aliens - I've never heard about them having reading materials on hand.   Maybe a joke - but the practical benefit is that I'm always able, ready and willing to be the family member designated to wait in line.  Works for me.

So I'm going to try blogging about what I've done, and read and how to do it.